Skip to main content

William S. Wetmore Papers

Identifier: MSN/EA 0509

Scope and Contents

The collection includes around 360 letters retained by William S. Wetmore, dating from June 1819 to December 1832. These span the later years of his employment by Carrington & Co., in Batavia and other East Indian ports (1819-1823); his time in Valparaíso and Lima as partner in the firm Alsop, Wetmore & Cryder (1823-1830); and years spent in New York prior to his departure for Canton (1830-1832). The greater number are letters directed to Wetmore, but there are many retained copies of letters written by him. A few of the items are accompanied by enclosures, printed or partly-printed. The correspondence treats general business matters, commodity prices, and the quest for reliable trade information. Letters written in South America in the 1820s sometimes address local political and military events, and their potential impact on business. There is also a good deal of personal content in the letters, in those written between Wetmore and his father and siblings in Vermont and in those of family members and friends with whom Wetmore was commercially involved. In addition to the correspondence, the collection includes a manuscript map of San Blas on the Pacific coast of Mexico, and 95 miscellaneous business and personal records of William S. Wetmore and other family members, 1823-1837


  • Creation: 1819-1837


Conditions Governing Access

There are no access restrictions on this collection

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Biographical / Historical

William Shepard Wetmore was born on 26 January 1801 in St. Albans, Vermont, the son of Seth and Nancy Shepard Wetmore. He was raised by relatives in Middletown, Connecticut, and at the age of fourteen went to work for Edward Carrington & Co., a Providence, Rhode Island mercantile trading firm which William's uncle, Samuel Wetmore, had recently joined as partner. Carrington & Co. invested in trading voyages to ports in China, the East Indies, South America, and elsewhere. In 1821 the house was reorganized to allow for the addition of a second uncle, William Willard Wetmore, as partner. William S. Wetmore embarked on his first voyage in 1815, and by the age of 20 was serving as Carrington's supercargo officer aboard the ship Fame, running between Providence and the East Indies. In 1823 Wetmore struck out on his own, partnering with the Valparaíso (Chile) import merchant Richard Alsop to create the firm Alsop & Wetmore (later Alsop, Wetmore & Cryder). The company traded between the west coast of South America, the U.S. and England with conspicuous success. In 1829 Wetmore retired from the firm, and after concluding his affairs in South America returned to the U.S. with considerable capital. Over the next several years he engaged in mercantile pursuits and sought investment opportunities in Providence and New York City. In 1833 he entered the China Trade, moving to Canton to establish Wetmore & Co. with partner Joseph Archer. He remained in China until 1839, trading tea, silks, opium and other goods to merchants in East Asia, North and South America, and Europe. Wetmore stayed active in the trade until 1847, when he withdrew his interests from his Canton and New York firms and retired to his Newport, Rhode Island mansion, Chateau-sur-Mer. He was married twice, in 1837 to his cousin Esther Phillips Wetmore (d. 1838) and in 1843 to Anstiss Derby Rogers. Wetmore died on 16 June 1862


1 Cubic foot

Language of Materials



The greater part of this collection consists of business and some personal correspondence of the American mercantile trader William S. Wetmore (1801-1862). Many of the 360-odd manuscript letters date from the 1820s, when Wetmore was establishing himself in trade on the west coast of South America


The collection is arranged in two series: 1) William S. Wetmore, Correspondence (folders 1-42), and 2) Miscellaneous Manuscripts (folders 43-45). Correspondence is arranged in chronological order

Related Materials

Wetmore's correspondence from his years in China in the 1830s is included in the William Shepard Wetmore Papers at the Baker Library, Harvard Business School (Mss:766 1821-1846 W541)

Guide to the William S. Wetmore Papers
Lauren Golden
January 2015
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the University of Notre Dame Rare Books & Special Collections Repository

102 Hesburgh Library
Notre Dame IN 46556